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Brazil 1970: Pele - the Brooding Heart of the Beautiful Game

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Eamonn Walsh | 16:48 UK time, Friday, 28 May 2010

Life is pretty good in Brazil right now. President Luiz 'Lula' da Silva has approval ratings running at 80%. And the largest economy in South America is booming.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal speculates on whether steps will need to be taken to stop the economy overheating.

But if the Brazilian economy has not always been such a powerhouse, its national football team certainly has been.

The Samba Kings have unquestioned pedigree - five time winners of the World Cup, an unprecedented record of having qualified for every finals tournament and the current number one team in the FIFA rankings.

The names of just some of their legendary players read like a who's who of the greats - Garrincha, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto, Zico, Socrates, Romario, Ronaldo and of course, Pele.

Though the team cruised through their qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, there has been criticism of the current manager Dunga for playing a more defensive style of football.

World Cup year always raises expectations of the Brazil team - both from the media and the team's adoring, fanatical fans. This year is no exception and nor was 1970, the year many feel was the pinnacle of Brazil's football prowess, the peak, if you will, of the beautiful game.

Ahead of the tournament, Brazil was a team under pressure. Panorama got a taste of this when our cameras caught up with them for a film that was broadcast on 12 May 1970.

Panorama's film crew gained incredible access to the Brazil squad at their training camp. The access lent itself to a lyrical, almost existential film portrayal of their talismanic star, Pele, as a dispirited figure with waning interest and a failing body.

The film pits Pele, forced by commercial pressures to play 120 matches a year in which he was a favourite target of aggressive opposition players, against the pragmatic coach Joao Saldanha.

Saldanha was hoping the 1970 World Cup tournament in Mexico would bring respite from his critics, while Pele was hoping for one more glorious hurrah.

The conflict came to a head just weeks before the tournament began with the sacking of Saldanha after a laboured victory over Argentina.

When they did reach Mexico, Pele and Brazil triumphed, playing a brand of the game which is now part of football folklore, winning the World Cup for a third time and keeping the Jules Rimet trophy for good.

With a booming economy and a settled team in top form, would you bet against them winning a sixth World Cup at Soccer City in Johannesburg on 11 July?

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